Related Text: The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler (1939 novel)

The Big Sleep by Raymond ChandlerOk, so I thought this was a prescribed text for English Extension 1: Genre: Crime Writing. Or at least a past (pre-2009) prescribed text. But it’s oddly not – at least not the novel. The film The Big Sleep is a pre-2009 prescribed text for Crime Fiction (now Crime Writing).

I picked up The Big Sleep after we analysed the first few pages of it for my Arts subject, Introduction to Novel Writing. I remember distinctly liking it, because of the voice of the character, Marlowe. As the narrator, I really enjoy his straightforward descriptions and dry humour. For example:

Over the entrance doors, which would have let in a troop of Indian elephants, there was a broad stained-glass panel showing a knight in dark armour rescuing a lady who was tied to a tree and didn’t have any clothes on but some very long and convenient hair. The knight had pushed the vizor of his helmet back to be sociable, and he was fiddling with the knots on the ropes that tied the lady to the tree and not getting anywhere. I stood there and thought that if lived in the house, I would sooner or later have to climb up there and help him. He didn’t seem to be really trying.

The rest of the novel is filled with these little observations of humour and irony.

Another aspect which struck me (after finishing the book on Saturday) was Chandler’s description of women – the Sternwood sisters and Mona Mars. The descriptions are really interesting and you get an image of these beautiful, yet simultaneously vicious women (predatory teeth as they smiled?).

Regarding the plot I’m not too short. Sometimes, I had no idea what was going on. The novel’s plot seems divided into 2 parts – 2 mysteries, which made me wonder (at the half way point of the novel): is this supposed to be 2 novels? The final answer or “twist” is interesting, but bizarre. It seems to pull a “psychopath” out of nowhere to explain everything.

So can it at least be a related text now?

Although you can use this as a related text for Crime Writing, you should be warned that the film version of this novel was previously a core text. This means that teachers and markers will be very familiar with the novel, or may think that you are choosing an “easy” text, because it has been previously studied.


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